The big-money boys, Claudio Lopez (Kansas City) and Marcelo Gallardo (D.C. United) haven't yet proved to be worth a DP slot, yet neither have they disgraced. Laurent Robert has clearly livened up Toronto's left flank, Fire forward Tomasz Frankowski looks like he'll be able to score consistently, and Crew left back Gino Padula held his own last weekend against D.C. United at RFK.
Houston signee Franco Caraccio is one of the many Argentines who've come to MLS in the past two years. He's trying to fill the shoes of Nate Jaqua and Joseph Ngwenya, who combined for 13 goals last season, then departed for Austria.
"It takes a while," says Coach Dominic Kinnear, whose teams have won the last two titles primarily with North American players. "No offense, but Claudio Lopez ain't exactly lighting it up. Franco is 21 years old, so he's still a young guy. But he's a good finisher and we're just trying to get him around the goal more He doing OK, he's still trying to figure it out."
This ranking of the top performers is reserved for players coming to America from abroad for the first time this season, and thus excludes New England's exciting young Gambians, Sainey Nyassi and Kenny Mansally, who signed last summer, as well as the Crew's Scottish-born midfielder Adam Moffat, who played for the USL D-2 Cleveland Stars last summer (and kudos toSigi Schmid for landing him.)
THE TOP 6
1. Laurent Robert (Toronto FC) Drilled home the free kick to notch a 1-0 defeat of Real Salt Lake in TFC's home opener Saturday, a week after giving the Galaxy fits in a rousing 3-2 victory.
2. Tomasz Frankowski (Chicago) He labored against Kansas City last weekend after scoring two goals in the first three games, yet looks like he'll be tough to track and stop in the goalmouth.
3. Franco Caraccio (Houston) He leads the team in scoring after setting up a Brad Davis goal with a knockdown header for his first assist, and potting a rebound for his second goal in a 2-2 tie with the Galaxy.
4. Ian Joy (Real Salt Lake) Solid games at left back have helped strengthen the RSL back line, yet we'll know more about him in another month or so. There are a lot of good right-sided attackers in MLS this year.
5. Gonzalo Martinez (D.C. United) He's good on the ball and can certainly win tackles. United's defensive woes, though, are of great concern. Timing, communication, and cohesion must improve.
6. Mauricio Castro (New England) Effective both as a wide midfielder and playing in the middle, he drops down the list for kicking Kevin Goldthwaite and being sent off in the 1-1 tie with New York last weekend.
Doing all right:Gallardo (D.C. United); Lopez, Ivan Trujillo (Kansas City): Padula (Columbus): Tony Caig (Houston); Rohan Ricketts (Toronto), Kenny Deuchar (Real Salt Lake), Tom McManus, Rafael Gomes(Colorado), Andre Rocha (FC Dallas).
Must do better:Alvaro Pires (Los Angeles); Gonzalo Peralta, Franco Niell, Jose Carvallo (D.C. United); Raphael Wicky (Chivas USA), Duilio Davino (FC Dallas), Argenis Fernandez (New England).
Yet to appear:Matias Cordoba, Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake).